February 08, 2007

Elections: a critical view

Not a few friends and even fellow activists have asked whether the right thing to do in the coming May polls is simply to boycott the darned thing what with the numerous signs that bode ill for an honest, fair and clean elections that would give a fighting chance for the electoral Opposition to win a significant number of congressional and local government seats.

The discredited head of the Commission on Elections refuses to relinquish the job while failing to undertake any major reforms such as the dismantling of the entrenched cheating mafia that has taken hold of the supposedly independent body. This “dagdag-bawas” machinery was allegedly run by the infamous Commissioner Garcellano who is said to have manufactured Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s spurious win in the 2004 presidential contest.

For her part, Mrs. Arroyo has not heeded calls from the Catholic hierarchy, concerned citizens and its many critics that she, as a gesture of good will, appoint new commissioners to vacant positions who are above reproach and can restore the requisite modicum of impartiality and credibility to the Comelec.

Mrs. Arroyo’s new Defense Secretary is widely perceived to have been involved in the “Hello Garci” high-level and wholesale cheating including its cover-up, with his latest appointment to a coveted post both a reward and political insurance for Mrs. Arroyo. He has, contrary to pronouncements by his predecessor, announced that the armed forces will continue to play its controversial role in “securing peace and order” during the electoral exercise. This is interpreted by many quarters as a flimsy cover for the rampant use of the military once more in favor of Mrs. Arroyo’s candidates.

Some people have been turned off, to the point of giving up any hope in the electoral process, due to the facile switching of sides by supposed anti-GMA opposition figures, who have opportunistically hopped onto the administration’s senatorial wagon. Furthermore, they exclaim in exasperation, don’t Filipinos deserve a better choice than candidates of the pretender-president Gloria versus those anointed by the ousted president Erap?

Many quarters are correct in asserting that the call for Mrs. Arroyo to resign or face ouster still rings true given the illegitimacy of its lying, cheating, stealing and, may we add, murderous and puppet presidency. But the fact that GMA is still in power shows that conditions are not ripe for her extra-constitutional removal given the remaining, formidable forces propping her up vis a vis the current strengths and weaknesses of the broad anti-GMA united front.

A reckoning of GMA’s support would start with continued US backing for its pliant, eager-to-please puppet regime that is deathly afraid of being found wanting in serving the Superpower’s interests in the country and the region. On the other hand, the Bush administration is a lame duck government facing heightening resistance to its policies at home and abroad.

The AFP/PNP, while wracked by dissension among its rank and file and young officer corps, remains loyal to Mrs. Arroyo who has found the right mix of higher budgets to feed the hungry maws of the extremely corrupt and wasteful military and police institutions, abetting illegal gambling and other criminal activities of the generals and senior officers and whipping up their appetite for a bloody counter-insurgency war disguised as part and parcel of the US-led “war against terrorism”.

Big business is still torn between judging whether Mrs. Arroyo is good or bad for business with the former apparently having the upper hand. The Catholic Church hierarchy is still in the process of developing the moral courage and the political maturity to take on its appropriate role in leading its increasingly restive flock mired in poverty and an unrelenting political crisis.

The traditional Opposition in the form of anti-GMA senators, congressmen and local government officials are shackled by their actual and perceived narrow and self-serving interests to be able to present an alternative center of leadership acceptable to the majority of our people and the broad spectrum of organized anti-GMA forces.

The Left for its part has still not been able to muster the muscle of gigantic and paralyzing mass actions to compel the government to heed its calls for pro-people measures much more making Mrs. Arroyo step down from power. In a real sense this situation of the anti-GMA alliance of political forces serves as a passive prop despite an extremely weakened Arroyo regime.

It is only right that those who are working hard for the genuine overhaul of oppressive and exploitative conditions in Philippine society should not contribute to the spread of illusions that electoral exercises bring the renewed promise of resolving the political crisis in this country nor ushering in genuine reforms. Thus any participation in the May polls must be attended by a critical viewpoint, always mindful of exposing the basically reactionary character of said electoral contests, even as the openings for using the exercise as a means of raising awareness, steeling the fighting will of the people, preparing them for the coming political battles with the US backed Arroyo regime and, wherever possible, scoring some electoral victories, is seriously attended to.

For indeed, despite the odds stacked in favor of the incumbent’s candidates, what weighs in favor of the progressives and the anti-GMA candidates is that the regime is so isolated and deeply immersed in the muck of corruption, fraud and anomaly that it tends to commit blunders while desperately staving off criticism and scheming to maintain itself in power, e.g. the debacle in its bid to railroad Charter change.

All sides are drawing road maps and war plans to get what they want in the coming electoral circus.

The ruling GMA faction wants to win more seats in congress to remain in power and kill any new attempts to impeach it. The electoral Opposition wants to win enough seats to be able to impeach GMA and eventually take over the reins of government. Progressive party lists and their base of support among the masses and middle class are participating without illusions of becoming dominant and wielding power but to have a broader forum for reaching out to the people, exposing the real situation, and calling for participation in a democratic movement for genuine reforms. Other influential voices are calling for a boycott.

In politics, while material resources and positions of power are important, they are not always the decisive factor in the outcome of particular engagements. The accuracy of the roadmap – that is, the correct reading of the situation in relation to one’s goals, whether one’s plan corresponds to reality or not -- will ultimately determine success or failure in achieving those avowed goals.

Mrs. Arroyo and other reactionaries are bound to fail because they overestimate their own strength and underestimate the people's intelligence, determination and capacity to take destiny in their own hands. ###


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